NASA launches mission to study solar flares
NASA launched two satellites from Cape Canaveral in Floridalate Wednesdayas part of a new mission that will observe eruptions from the sun known as solar flares.
The radiation from solar flares can interfere with electrical and communications systems on Earth, can wreak havoc on orbiting satellites and harm astronauts performing walks in space.
The spacecraft launched onWednesday at 8:52 p.m. ETare called STEREO, for Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory. NASA used a Delta II rocket to launch the space probes one on top of another.
Scientists said they hope the $550 million US mission, which will take two years, will shed some light on solar flares, giving them information on their origin, evolution and interplanetary consequences. The solar flares are considered to be the among the most violent explosions in the solar system.
Scientists also hope the satellites will act like a pair of eyes, working in tandem, to give them the first ever three-dimensional views of the sun.
Solar flareseject about a billion tonnes of the sun's atmosphere into space, travelling at a speed at 1.6 million kilometres an hour. Theycause the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis.
NASA said it thinks information about the solar flares will assist astronauts who go to the moon, and on future trips toMars.
Technical problems delayed the launch of the twin satellies a number of times and concern about high winds delayed Thursday's launch by several minutes. NASA managers were concerned that winds might send toxic material over urban areas if the satellites exploded accidentally.
But about 15 minutes before the launch time, the winds were deemed acceptable and the rocket powering the spacecraftblasted off.
With files from the Associated Press